And So Ended Kant's Travelling In This World (1997)
As my contribution to the Hilliard Ensemble's Summer School, for which I was composer-in-residence, I wrote two works for the entire group of tutors and students: this work, which lasts about 7 minutes, and the Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri. The text is taken from Thomas de Quincey's The Last Days of Immanuel Kant, a work which I have planned several times for operatic treatment and which I intend to bring to completion at some stage, and describes Kant's last journey, a futile and inconclusive visit to a friend in the country. As the students on the course, many of whom were professional singers, were drawn from all over the world I felt that it would useful to write something in English, almost as an exercise in diction. In the event the words which caused most difficulty and disagreement were the (German) words "General von Lossow". When introducing the piece in the final concert I found myself on the verge of making the rather tactless reference to 'almost starting World War III'....
In particular the cottage itself, standing under the shelter of tall alders with a valley silent and solitary stretched beneath, through which a little brook meandered, broken by a waterfall whose pealing sounds dwelt pleasantly on the ear, sometimes on a quiet sunny day gave a lively delight to Kant. Once the little pastoral landscape suddenly awakened a lively remembrance, which had long laid sleep, of a heavenly summer morning in youth, which he had passed in a bower upon the banks of a rivulet that ran through the grounds of a dear and early friend, General von Lossow. He seemed to be living over that morning again, thinking as he then thought and conversing with beloved friends that were no more.
His very last excursion was not to my cottage but to the garden of a friend. He was to meet this old friend at the gardens, and I awaited him. Our party arrived first and had to wait. Such. however, was Kant's weakness that after waiting a few moments, several hours, he fancied, must have elapsed. So his friend could not be expected and he cam away in great discomposure of mind.
And so ended Kant's travelling in this world.
Thomas de Quincey.